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EPA National News: OIL EXECUTIVE CONVICTED OF VIOLATING TWO LAWS IN MISSISSIPPI
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OIL EXECUTIVE CONVICTED OF VIOLATING TWO LAWS IN MISSISSIPPI

FOR RELEASE: THURSDAY, JULY 15, 1999

OIL EXECUTIVE CONVICTED OF VIOLATING TWO LAWS IN MISSISSIPPI

John R. Cooke, an executive and part owner of M&S Petroleum Inc., which operated the Barrett oil refinery near Vicksburg, Miss., was convicted on ten counts of violating environmental and other federal laws on July 8, by a jury sitting in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi in Natchez. Cooke, who is from the Houston, Texas area, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, four counts of violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), two counts of violating the Clean Air Act, and three counts of making false statements. Between April 1995 and May 1996, Cooke engaged in a conspiracy to illegally discharge benzene and other pollutants into the Mississippi River and Hatcher Bayou south of Vicksburg. He also made false statements to the state Department of Environmental Quality and intentionally failed to perform required environmental testing at the refinery. An additional result was the release of benzene into the air. In sufficient quantities, benzene is acutely toxic and a possible cause of cancer. In addition, more than one million gallons of hazardous waste was abandoned at the refinery in violation of the RCRA law. Cooke can be sentenced to a maximum imprisonment of 50 years and/or fines of up to $2.5 million. The case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division with assistance from EPA’s National Enforcement Investigations Center, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the FBI, and the state Department of Environmental Quality, and was prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

R-76 ###

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Last Revised: 07/15/1999 05:17:01 PM